Daniel Rodgers’s Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age examines progressivism in Europe and America. Rodgers argues that “American social politics were tied to social political debates and endeavors in Europe through a web of rivalry and exchange.” (5) Looking at the 1870s through the end of World War II, Rodgers examines the origins of transnational … [Read more]

Indigenous Representation; the American West

In Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums, Amy Lonetree comparatively analyzes the representation of Native Americans at national and tribal museums at Mille Lacs Indian Museum, National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), and the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways. Lonetree is interested in examining the role museums play within contemporary Indigenous … [Read more]

Gender and Sexuality

In her seminal article “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” Joan Scott defines gender as being comprised of two interrelated parts: “gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes, and gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power.” (1067) Each of this week’s readings adhere to this … [Read more]

The Evolution of Museums

Catherine Lewis, in The Changing Face of Public History: The Chicago Historical Society and the Transformation of an American Museum, uses the Chicago Historical Society (CHS) as a case study through which to examine the rise of multiculturalism, erosion of expert authority,  culture wars, and the consequences of blending popular and academic understandings of the past … [Read more]

Immigration and Racial Formation

This week’s readings examine the intersection of immigration and the construction of race throughout American history. Conzen, Gerber, Morawska, Pozzetta, and Vecoli, in “The Invention of Ethnicity: A Perspective from the USA,” argue that ethnicity is “a process of construction or invention which incorporates, adapts, and amplifies preexisting communal solidarities, cultural attributes, and historical memories. That … [Read more]

The Emotional Toll of Public History

Amy Tyson, in The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public History’s Front Lines, examines the work of the living history site Fort Snelling. Tyson writes that her book “examines museum interpreters as service workers and cultural producers.” (Tyson 4) Tyson, who has a PhD in American Studies, worked at Fort Snelling herself, and in a … [Read more]

Lowell and the Black Museum Movement

Cathy Stanton, in The Lowell Experiment: Public History in a Postindustrial City, builds on the work of Handler and Gabler in The New History in an Old Museum. Stanton, an anthropologist, completed two years of field work at Lowell National Historical Park. She states that the subject of her book revolves around the notion of “reciprocity of disappearance … [Read more]

Attractions as Public History?

Jessie Swigger’s “History is Bunk”: Assembling the Past at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is an analysis of the history of Greenfield Village, a re-created historical village based on Henry Ford’s glorification of certain aspects of American history and the progress narrative. Swigger says the book “explores Greenfield Village’s long history, from Ford’s initial conception in 1919, … [Read more]

The Inauthenticity of Colonial Williamsburg

Richard Handler and Eric Gable’s The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg uses an ethnographic approach to examine Colonial Williamsburg (CW) and the ways in which it produces history. The authors conducted interviews with employees and a few visitors, and analyzed the history of CW, its historiographical approaches from the 1930s through the 1980s, … [Read more]

Oklahoma City and 9/11

Edward Linenthal’s The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory is a cultural analysis of the bombing of Oklahoma City and the ways in which survivors, victims’ families, the community, and nation as a whole dealt with the aftermath and details the memorialization process. Linenthal argues that the bombing “sparked a crisis of American identity in which much … [Read more]